Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Finding Your Passion

Have you ever known someone who put their passion into their work, or better yet worked their passion?  I’d like to introduce you to my friend Kevin.  

Kevin and I have known each other for about 12 years now, meeting as we worked together in project management.  I was new to the department and to project management; Kevin became my training buddy.  I shadowed him on his primary accounts to learn the ropes in hopes that I would very quickly take on my own project.  During that training period, Kevin and I got to know each others background to some extent, but like most work relationships, we only shared bits of whom we were and where we came from.  As time went on our careers moved in different directions, but both of us would have similar events bringing us back together.

We both became victims of downsizing and left the organization where we originally met.  Within about a year, we met up again at another company with me, ironically, taking over the role Kevin had as he moved to another division.  I was a consultant and as my project ended, Kevin got caught in yet another downsizing.   We both left that company at about the same time.  

With both of us looking for our next career move, we connected and decided to form an organization on our own.  This organization was called Rise Above and with three others, we helped people who were downsized.  We put on free seminars providing hope along with practical skills around networking, writing resumes and interviewing.  As with any other training, we found that we learned as much by presenting as the audience learned from us; and I learned more about Kevin.

Over the next 9 months, Kevin shared more about his time in the Navy, his childhood years with his sister, mother and stepfather in Ohio, how he met his wife Beth and stories from his alma mater, the Ohio State Buckeyes hated rival of my Wisconsin Badgers.  What really became evident to me during that time was Kevin’s passion for helping others.  How he could make a career out of this inner need, we didn’t know yet. 
I’m a big fan of the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  We are not all ready to learn at the same time, but when we are ready, it is amazing how quickly our teacher shows up.  This proverb fit Kevin perfectly.  What Kevin didn’t know at the time was that the teacher he needed was he himself.  

As he continued to provide insight to others about how to understand their passion through stories of his own career, Kevin gradually realized that he also needed that advice.  One day he told the story of a meeting he had with one of his leaders.  The leader asked Kevin what he wanted to do with his career.  Kevin answered, “I want to help people.”  

“Well, you’re not helping people here in this role,” was the response to Kevin.  

As he told that story to the audience, it hit him and he looked at me and said, “We have to talk.”  We sat down for coffee and he relayed his newly discovered passion.  

“I’ve made a decision,” he said.  “I’m going back to school to become a nurse.”  

You can imagine my surprise.  My initial thoughts were mixed with excitement and joy for him along with a little bit of doubt.  After a 20-year career in the Navy and business world, this was a significant change.  Could Kevin really make that big of a shift as he entered his forties?  

Within a few weeks, Kevin had completed his research, enrolled in some foundational courses and gotten accepted in an accelerated program through Bellin College of Nursing.  Just two weeks ago, almost 2 full years from our meeting at the coffee shop, Kevin got the news that he passed his board exam.  

Kevin would describe himself as a fairly average guy.  He’s not a Bill Gates, Michael Jordan or Donald Trump, yet he has, in my opinion, made lifestyle changes as dramatic as they have.  Many don’t know their passion or haven’t taken the time to define it.  Most who do know, don’t take actions toward that passion. 
What makes Kevin so remarkable is that he took actions rather than finding the excuses.  He didn’t let his age, shift in career, long nights of study, lost income or any doubters tell him he couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t easy and he went through many struggles, but Kevin never wavered on his goal.  As he confronted obstacles, he pushed through, re-planned like a good project manager and kept taking the next action.  

I am proud to call him my friend and Registered Nurse.  Just imagine the impact he will have on others as he serves them. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Appreciation for Tegan

In my new role at a new company, I have been very fortunate to meet some wonderful people. This week I had a meeting with a lady who is helping me with financial numbers. Her name is Tegan and she has a face as lovely as her name. What I found out during our brief meeting is that she has as beautiful a spirit as well.

I waited for Tegan to get out of another meeting, I noticed a piece of paper taped to her cubicle wall. It had a picture of who I assumed was her family and the title, “Scott Niemuth Benefit”. I asked Tegan about the benefit and found a powerful story.

At age 50, her father Scott has recently been diagnosed with ALS. “Okay,” I thought, “he’s got a struggle in front of him, but that’s what makes life so worthwhile, overcoming struggles.” That’s what I thought, but I am wrong.

As Tegan bravely told me the story of his health struggles over a period of six months until he finally was accurately diagnosed, I could see the pain on her face, but her voice never wavered. She earnestly apologized that she would not be available on Fridays for a while so she could spend time with him on weekends. Finally I asked how the treatments are going. Completely composed, she told me there are no treatments. He visits a medical facility regularly just to understand how the disease has progressed, but in reality he has only 12 to 18 months left if they are lucky. I appeared more broken than she.

You see, I’m the guy who always looks for the silver lining, the lesson, the value in a bad situation. I’m the one who teaches my kids to recite the phrase, “There’s always a solution!” I’m the one who always believes there’s a bucker inside of each of us who can overcome anything we put our minds to.

 I’m the one who just learned there is no solution to this man’s struggle. After hearing the details of her father’s story, I shared the story with my wife. It helped both of us to gain further perspective on what is important in life. With 5 children age 11 and under, our days can get pretty stressed, particularly if we focus too much on what we want rather than what they want.

As I got ready for work this morning, I didn’t get angry about my 4-year-old who didn’t want to put on the shorts we picked out for him. I hugged him instead. As I drove into the office, I didn’t worry about being 3 minutes behind schedule or the long line of cars in front of me at the round-a-bout or even the driver who cut me off trying to get further in front of that line. Instead, I breathed in the cool fresh air, admired the glass look of the river, and listened to the sound of kids laughing and running down the river trail. Even though I was running late, I still stopped at my coffee shop, smiled at everyone who passed me and listened to the funny story from the girl making my coffee. Just before I reached the parking lot, I called my wife just to tell her how much I appreciate her.

These are the little things that could be taken from me at anytime and I thank Tegan immensely for helping me remember that! Her father has never met me and still he has impacted me. To help Scott and his family visit the following link:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Finding Pennies

I pulled into the gas station to fill up the truck for the first time. I shook my head at the price per gallon listed on the pump, and then fell back against the truck in shock at the total price once it was filled. Reaching to put the gas cap back on, I knocked it off its ledge and watched it roll under the truck. “Really,” I thought to myself, “on such a warm day wearing my dress pants and a white shirt, I have to get on my hands and knees to get this cap?” As I reached under the truck, there it was, resting right next to the cap, shining at me. I smiled and picked it up. I turned it over in my hands to examine it further; sure enough, it was a nickel. I hugged it in my hand, thanked God and smiled remembering what my children had suggested about finding money. Suddenly all the problems of the morning were gone. It was 3 months earlier as I drove the kids to school, Lauren next to me in the front seat, Megan and Carson in the back; Carson sitting in the middle to avoid the booster seat he feels he’s too big for. “What’s that quarter for?” Lauren asked referring to the quarter that was sliding back and forth on the dashboard. “I found it outside my coffee shop yesterday.” My innocent response provoked a conversation that changed my view of simple coins. “We sure seem to be finding a lot of money,” Carson said. “Well, I wouldn’t say a quarter is a lot of money”, I replied. “But Dad, we have been finding a lot of coins lately,” Lauren chimed in. “Why do you think that is?” I asked. Megan answered first, “I think God is giving us the money.” Carson agreed. Lauren added, “I think God is giving it to us and telling us that money is everywhere.” “Really, why would He do that?” I asked which continued a conversation that concluded with all of us agreeing on a new perspective on finding pennies. We concluded that there’s an abundance of money out there, you just have to open ourselves up to it; stop blocking it from coming to us with thoughts about not having enough. It’s as if God is saying, “You want more money, here it is. I’ve got plenty for you.” Then He throws coins in front of us to prove it. “What I can’t give to you,” He continues, “are the really important things in life that you have to earn.” Each day I hope to remember that it’s not about the money. It’s about the effects on others. It’s about love, respect, learning, teaching and growing – it’s about Family. It’s about a daughter who sends you a card stating “Father of the Year” and reminds me to start working on next year. It’s about waiting 15 minutes for a 10-year-old and her friend to catch up, and then crossing the finish line of her first 10K run holding hands. It’s about a son who goes to his first football camp and can’t stop talking about it for weeks. It’s about the 4-year-old getting his finger stuck in the truck window and needing some ice, a band-aid and a kiss to recover. And it’s about his twin brother helping him out of the truck and getting the ice for him. It’s about coming home every night to the incredible woman who takes care of all of us and being able to so gratefully call her my wife. How much do you want to bet I find a penny on the street today?